a little with disuse. Which would make sense. It’s taken me an entire season of Running Wild with Bear Grylls to get here. I can’t imagine he’s having book clubs and dinner parties and gabbing with his pals on the regular.

Towel adjusted and glorious goods hidden from view, he studies me with frigid blue eyes and a glare worthy of a scorned woman. I shiver.

“I’m only going to ask you one more time. What in the hell are you doing here?”

I fiddle with the edges of my shirt as I finally find my vocal cords. “I’m Billie…Billie Harris.”

And I am in way over my head.


Three Days Earlier

Give me coffee, and no one gets hurt. Give Charles Hawthorne coffee, and everyone gets their ass kissed.

I suppose kissing of asses could be considered a good thing, but when it comes to Charles—my archnemesis at work—and his propensity to kiss the gluteal region of my boss, Serena, it could definitely be better.

Speaking of, my phone lights up with a message from its spot in the cupholder, and I glance down to read the preview bubble as it populates.

Charles: Serena, would you like me to bring you a coffee?

Ugh. Both of us are vying for the same position—to be the right hand (wo)man to Serena Koontz, one of the biggest production company owners in all of Hollywood.

And this is not some friendly competition turned rom-com where we fall hopelessly in love. This guy is a brownnosing, smug thorn in my side who sucks up to our boss so much his lips will eventually be permanently attached to her ass.

Serena: No.

She generally doesn’t even have the decency to include pleasantries when she shoots him down, but he never lets it discourage him. He’s tenacious. I’ll give him that.

Charles: What about a croissant from that bakery you love so much? It’s on my way in.

Serena: Have it here at ten. Morning meeting is pushed back.

I shake my head at the new information I’ve just obtained from being a third wheel on their conversation. Considering their messages are inside our ongoing group chat, the eavesdropping is expected, but still. I wonder if anyone would have bothered to tell me about the change in meeting time if I weren’t spying on their messages like a voyeur?

I tap my fingers on the steering wheel as “Wagon Wheel,” one of my daddy’s favorite songs, starts to blare from my stereo speakers, and I shift my mind away from workplace slights.

There are a million and one memories to go with this song, and regardless of how I got the information, I just won an hour and a half of extra time.

I roll down my window a crack and soak in all the glitz around me.

Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive. There’s nothing like it. A well-dressed woman in a little white Porsche sits at a stoplight, and a black Ferrari is illegally parked in front of a Starbucks. The sun shines differently on fancy storefronts, and people walk around in outfits that cost more than my car—an almost comical contrast to the grassroots, country twang music filling my ears.

But that disparity is one-hundred-percent me.

Small town, country girl—who isn’t country at all—turned Hollywood.

Well, trying to turn Hollywood.

At the first available opening, I gas it up alongside my fancy vehicle counterparts and take a right turn onto Melrose. Alfred’s Coffee sits on the next corner, and despite Charles’s shenanigans with the fine brown liquid, coffee always beckons. And usually, it does it from Alfred’s. Only five minutes from work, the establishment on Melrose Avenue has become my favorite coffee spot in LA.

It takes me a few minutes to find a spot to slip into, but when I finally do, my phone has vibrated in my cupholder another three times.

Charles: Great! Can I get you anything else?

Serena: Nope.

Charles: Well, just let me know if that changes!

I pick up the phone just as he’s sending one final message: a smiley face and thumbs-up emoji.

Goodness gracious, if he keeps this up, Serena Koontz will be the first human being alive to give birth to a fully dressed man.

I let out a deep exhale, type my own message, keeping it short and succinct with See you at 9:45, hit send, and head inside to Alfred’s.

Maybe it’s to my detriment, but I refuse to play Charles’s ridiculous game. I don’t want Serena to ask me to be a permanent employee at her production company because I’m the best at fetching fucking coffee. I want her to want me on her